Kimono patterns of lighting and stars

Kimono Patterns―22
Shizen (Nature): Patterns born from the Japanese aesthetic

From ancient times, beautiful artistic patterns on kimono have reflected the Japanese people’s delicate senses towards the changing seasons and how social conventions in the country have changed through its history.
This weekly series will take a look at various types of kimono patterns, from those that can be worn year-round to those for special occasions, with a special focus on summer-themed patterns. We will explore the meanings behind the designs as well as insights into styling a kimono attire.

This week we will introduce patterns of summer plants, flowers and nature.

Obi with a motif of sun and moon
An obi with a simple and beautiful motif of the sun and moon drawn on a bowl by Rosanjin.

The natural motifs used in kimono and obi include a variety of objects such as the moon, stars, clouds (see article here), landscapes and more. Some of them were developed as designs from elusive forms, for example, haze, rain and flowing water, illustrating the delicate Japanese aesthetics. It is said that the use of such natural phenomena began in the Asuka (592-710) and Nara (710-794) periods.

Let us introduce five types of natural patterns, including moons, stars, and shapeless lightning bolts, which have been objects of worship since the primitive era.


Tsuki (Moon)
Since ancient times, the sun and the moon have been objects of worship and symbols of power. In the Heian period (794-1185), people started to divine astronomy and calendars, and the sun and the moon began to be incorporated in designs and used as patterns. Especially, the moon is still widely seen today, in obi designs for example.

Kimono pattern of the moon

<Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern>
Year-round, autumn

Hoshi (Star)
During the Heian period, worshipping the Big Dipper, which was believed to protect the North Star, was popularized and further led to the development of star patterns. A variety of star patterns were created, but as of today, the most popular are playful patterns based of star-shaped motifs.

Kimono pattern of stars

<Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern>
Year-round, autumn

Inazuma (Lightning)
This pattern representing the forms of thunder and lightning is often depicted with bending straight lines, seen in many Noh costumes of the Momoyama period (1573-1603), said to be worn by fierce characters.

Another type of the thunderbolt pattern is a signature ancient Chinese pattern of spirals expressed by squares. Such patterns can also be found on Chinese culinary vessels.

Kimono pattern of a flash of lightning

<Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern>
Year-round, summer

Musashino is a pattern of the combination of Japanese pampas grass and the moon, depicting a taste of autumn.

It became popular as a subject for paintings in the Momoyama period and was used on kosode (a type of narrow-sleeved kimono) in the Edo period (1603-1867). A combination of the moon and the Japanese pampas grass is common, but there are also some that portray only a field of pampas grass, or combined with Mount Fuji.

Kimono pattern of musashino
A modest obi with a faintly illustrated moon and Japanese pampas grass on a plain colored background. Coordinated with a sheer kimono with a pampas grass design, the style appears to convey a story.

<Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern>
Summer, Autumn

A type of kimono pattern worn by women of aristocrats and upper-class samurai households in the Edo period, was given this name after the Meiji period. This was dyed in a later period than the chayatsuji pattern, and was expressed in hand-painted yuzen and embroideries.

>Chayatsuji patterns are a type of landscape pattern which emerged in the Edo period. It was used by upper-class samurai class women to dress formally in summer, and refers to a pattern drawn on the full-length of a linen textile. Motifs include waterfront sceneries, bridges, houses, trees, plants and flowers.

A formal yuzen kimono with a goshodoki pattern dyed on purple textile.

Compared to chayatsuji, the garden is illustrated with pines, Japanese apricots, cherry blossoms and flowering plants, while also portraying waterfalls, pavilions, and court carriages and the palace mansions, indicating that it is a palace garden. The pattern is used nowadays on formal kimono and dyed obi.

<Recommended season for wearing this kimono pattern>


Kaku to kisetsu ga hitome de wakaru―Kimono no mon-yo
(Kimono Patterns―A guide to their rank and seasons )
Supervised by Kenzo Fujii
(Sekai Bunka Publishing, in Japanese)

Featuring over 300 kimono patterns including the ones introduced in this story, the book helps readers learn about the history and meanings of kimono patterns through a rich variety of photos. Kimono and obi can be categorized into kaku (rank) depending on its material and patterns, and different occasions call for combinations of kimono and obi of the appropriate ranks. A practical and entertaining guide for all kimono lovers,  the book gives useful tips on common confusions related to the ranks and seasonal categorizations of patterns, as well as numerous kimono styling examples.

Available in Japan through Amazon and other online bookstores here. The book can also be ordered at bookstore counters in Japan with no shipping charges (the service may be unavailable at some stores).



2020 Autumn / Winter

Spotlight on Heritage